HOOKSETT — With negotiations for a new high school contract between Pinkerton Academy and Hooksett hitting difficulties, some Hooksett School Board members and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas are hoping a window of opportunity may have been created for Manchester.
"I believe we are currently the school of record for Hooksett, and we look forward to continuing our 100-year relationship," Gatsas said Wednesday. "We are full steam ahead (with improvements at West High School) and I think (the improvements are) a bigger story than what is going on with Pinkerton."
Hooksett officials had been hoping that Pinkerton would become the district's anchor school for its 600 high school students next school year. But Superintendent Charles Littlefield told board members Tuesday talks had hit a snag. He hopes to negotiate a contract with the Derry school for the 2015-2016 school year.
Manchester Assistant Superintendent David Ryan, who is also a Hooksett resident, attended the board meeting Tuesday night. Ryan told the board a concerted effort should be made to strengthen the Hooksett-Manchester relationship.
Hooksett School Board members David Pearl and John Lyscars said they were both impressed that Ryan had reached out.
"You can already feel the change in Manchester that both (Ryan) and (new superintendent) Dr. (Debra) Livingston are making, and that can only benefit Hooksett children. It's great to see communication lines between the districts are back up. It was a bold and brave step by (David Ryan). It was refreshing to see someone from the Manchester School District come out to Hooksett," Lyscars said.
Pearl, who said that he has never supported completely severing ties with Manchester, said that he thinks Hooksett should negotiate with Manchester on a new high school sending contract that would keep Manchester as a Hooksett school of record.
"There are still a lot of people who want their kids to go there," Pearl said.
Gatsas said that by putting in place a program at West that allows students to earn college credits, Manchester has already shown Hooksett parents that Manchester is serious about making improvements.
Hooksett board members Cheryl Akstin and Trisha Korkosz both expressed faith that Manchester will continue to serve Hooksett well as the district's school of record, but expressed disappointment that negotiations with Pinkerton stalled."We have had a long relationship with Manchester, and I expect that to remain," Korkosz said.
Hooksett and Manchester reached a settlement this summer, settling Hooksett's breach claim against Manchester and Manchester's injunction against Hooksett. The agreement terminated the district's sending contract four years early and netted Manchester $200,000 in payouts from Hooksett. A tuition agreement was reached that will allow Hooksett students to attend Manchester schools until 2018.
"I voted for the breach claim, but I always thought Manchester would be part of the picture. And as part of the settlement, we have to negotiate in good faith with Manchester by 2016 on a new contract anyway," Pearl said.
Resident Carrie Hyde agreed.
"I am not surprised (negotiations failed), because the school board was rushing, and they should have taken their time," she said of the talks with Pinkerton.
"We have two children in Central High School, and we are happy with the job Manchester is doing. I would like to see the Hooksett-Manchester relationship continue, but we also like the idea of giving parents choices — but Manchester should not be eliminated as a choice," Hyde said.
Littlefield told the board Tuesday that negotiations with Londonderry, Pembroke and Bow school officials are progressing well.